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Mexicans, Salvadorans see a better life in US

May Day protesters hold US and Mexican flags as they take to the streets on May 1, 2008 in Los Angeles,California
May Day protesters hold US and Mexican flags as they take to the streets on May 1, 2008 in Los Angeles, California

As President Barack Obama renewed a push for immigration reform Thursday, a new poll found that a large majority of Mexicans and Salvadorans view life in the United States positively.

The survey by the Pew Research Center found that 66 percent of Mexicans and 79 percent of Salvadorans see the United States in a positive light.

Mexico is the biggest source of immigration to the United States, accounting for about 30 percent of the US immigrant population, according to the US Census. Another seven percent are from Central America, including El Salvador.

Surveyed in their home countries, 46 percent of Mexicans and 64 percent of Salvadorans said they believed their lives would be better if they could live in the United States.

"Among those who have friends or family in the US, at least seven in ten in both countries say these individuals have achieved their goals," the report said.

"A quarter or fewer report that their friends or relatives have been disappointed."

Richard Wike, the coordinator of the survey, said the findings show "how strongly connected people are to the US."

"This is because of first-hand experience, or because they have friends and in most cases relatives," he told AFP.

"In the case of Salvadorans, almost two thirds said they have friends or relatives in the US. The number is just a bit lower in the case of Mexicans."

Wike said the most important factor driving Mexicans and Salvadorans to seek a better life in the United States are the high levels of crime related to gangs and drugs in their home countries.

"Seven in ten in both countries mention crime, particularly the gang-related violence and the drug-related violence, as a main problem in their countries," he said.

"It's interesting that among Salvadorans, 93 percent mentions the gang violence. It's almost unanimous."

By large majorities, Mexicans surveyed mentioned listed crime, drug-related violence and human rights abuses by authorities as the main problems of their society.

Economic factors also contribute to the positive view of life in the United States, the survey found.

Among Mexicans, for instance, six in 10 people cited the poor state of basic education as an important problem, while half pointed to the need to find better jobs.

The survey was conducted among 1,792 people in Mexico and El Salvador between March and May of this year.